A Louisiana wildlife official displays oil from a marsh on April 19, 2011, at Middle Ground, La. (John Moore / Getty Images)
There was no red carpet, but the inspector general community last week celebrated its version of the Oscars, with a team from the Environmental Protection Agency IG’s office taking top honors.
The team won for five reports examining EPA’s response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The reports, which examined everything from the EPA’s oversight of the cleanup to its national contingency plan for responses to oil spills and hazardous substance releases, contributed significantly to environmental protection as well as “the government’s ability to meet its legal obligations and effectively manage and pay for associated costs,” according to a citation that read as if it came from, well, an IG report.
The EPA team beat out 15 other nominees to take home the Alexander Hamilton Award, named for the nation’s first Treasury secretary, who also served as an Army inspector general. The Hamilton award recognizes “outstanding achievements in improving the integrity, efficiency or effectiveness of Executive Branch agency operations” and is the highest honor of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.
Like the recipients of six other special category awards, the EPA team representative, Patrick Gilbride, got a handshake and a photo op with Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget and the council’s executive chairman.
The awards covered work done from April 2011 through March 2012. Also honored were dozens of individuals and teams for excellence in audits, investigations and other inquiries that provided a quick tour of the labyrinth of waste, fraud and abuse. Among them was the six-member team from the General Service Administration’s inspector general’s office that uncovered lavish spending at GSA’s now notorious 2010 Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas.
“You work in one of the last safe harbors for truth,” Paul Light, a New York University professor of public service, told the audience of more than 500.
The ceremony ended with not a party, but a sober reminder: “At times, we have a tough message to deliver,” said Charles McCullough, inspector general for the intelligence community. As the awards showed, McCullough said, “we have not shied away from reporting our findings, with the goal of improving our individual agencies and the broader federal government.”